O Cuiv targets over-65s with large pension pots
SOCIAL Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv yesterday said wealthy pensioners should bear the brunt of taxes and cuts -- but he could not outline how this could be done.
Although Mr O Cuiv would not be drawn on whether the basic state pension would be cut in December's Budget, he claimed it was "patently nonsense" to say nobody over the age of 65 should pay more toward fixing the public finances.
"To infer all pensioners are poor is fallacious," he told the Oireachtas Social Protection Committee. He said some pensioners were very wealthy and said they should be able to pay more than those depending on state pensions, or those with a small occupational pensions.
But despite indicating he preferred going after older people with substantial pension pots, Mr O Cuiv did not outline any way this could be done, or if it would be done this year, and insisted he would not means test those on the state pension.
Many pensioners qualify for a scheme where those in receipt of state pensions are not liable to income tax unless the income is higher than €20,000 for a single person or €40,000 for a couple.
Labour's Roisin Shortall said the State was spending about €3bn in pension tax reliefs and said "the vast bulk of that goes to the top 20pc of earners", which she said included former Irish Nationwide boss Michael Fingleton "who has a €27m pension pot".
Mr O Cuiv heard requests from groups such as Age Action Ireland and Older and Bolder, as well as the opposition, not to touch the state pension.
Their pleas came after a string of government backbenchers warned Mr O Cuiv and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan about cutting the payment, which is €230 for contributory claimants and €219 for non-contributory.
Although he would not be drawn on the state pension, apart from saying rumours of a €20 or €30 cut had "absolutely no basis", Mr O Cuiv said adjustments would have to be made to wider social welfare spending.
He confirmed the Christmas welfare bonus, which would cost €226m, was off the table again this year.
And Mr O Cuiv could not say when those at risk of fuel poverty would be given promised compensation payments to make up for the money they lost when a carbon levy was introduced last year.
Mr O Cuiv said a voucher system would not be introduced and could not give a commitment that compensation payments would be made this winter. He claimed he was awaiting a report from a strategy group examining the issue.